Israel Calls on Armed Civilians to Stand Guard After Hamas Attack


  • Israeli officials called on armed civilians to guard their towns following attacks by Hamas. 
  • Hamas launched an attack from Gaza on Saturday. Israel has since declared a “state of war.” 
  • Ziv Cohen, a tour guide from Mazkeret Batya, is one of the civilians who volunteered to stand guard. 

Ziv Cohen woke up at about 6:30 a.m. on Saturday to the rumble of someone moving furniture in the apartment above him.

“Then, suddenly, after it continued again and again, it came to my head that I’m on the top floor,” Cohen told Insider. “There is no one above me to move a chair. It was an attack.”

Cohen, 54, was actually hearing “barrages of rockets” launched early Saturday by Hamas, the political and military organization governing the Gaza Strip that the United States designates a terrorist organization. The attack has so far killed 150 people and wounded hundreds more

In the following hours, Israel officially declared “a state of war,” launching air strikes on densely populated Gaza in response. Israel has held Gaza under a severe blockade since Hamas gained power in 2007, restricting the movement of goods and people. The Palestinian Health Ministry said at least 200 have so far been killed in Gaza. 

Local municipalities in Israel are now calling on armed civilians to guard their own communities.

Cohen, a tour guide from Mazkeret Batya, a small town about 24 miles from Gaza, is one of them. 

A home in Mazkeret Batya that was hit by rockets Saturday.

A home in Mazkeret Batya that was hit by rockets on Saturday.

Ziv Cohen

Cohen told Insider that officials from Mazkeret Batya, close enough to Gaza to be targeted by this morning’s rockets, called for all civilians who are armed and willing to volunteer to do so.

“They said everyone who has a licensed weapon with him is being called to join the group that is guarding and watching the community,” Cohen said. “Israel is in a war. We have to protect ourselves in every house, in every home, in every town.”

Cohen, who has a pistol, volunteered to stand guard at one of the town’s entrances. 

Cohen said he’s stationed at one of the town’s main gates for his three-hour shift, which will stretch into Saturday night. There, he parked his car — a minivan, which on a typical day he’d use to guide tourists around Jerusalem and nearby historical sites — in the road, creating a blockade to slow down traffic. 

He said his team’s responsibility would be to speak with drivers and inspect their cars as they come into town. 

Though the rockets struck homes and cars in his neighborhood this morning, Cohen said he wasn’t nervous to stand guard. He said the job comes with an inherent risk, “but this is something that you don’t think about. You make your duty, and everything has a risk in life.”

Hamas’ surprise attack came on the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Yom Kippur war.

“Citizens of Israel, we are at war, not in an operation or in rounds, but at war,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video address. “This morning, Hamas launched a murderous surprise attack against the State of Israel and its citizens. We have been in this since the early morning hours.”


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